This review and others are posted at Read, Rinse, Repeat.
We learn in the opening pages of Reconstructing Amelia that fifteen year-old Amelia fell to her death from the roof of her Brooklyn prep school, an action ruled a suicide. Even at this early point, the moment hits hard when Amelia's mother shows up at school to pick her up, unaware of the tragedy that occurred. Her mother, a single parent and partner at a prestigious law firm, is knocked back by grief and blames herself. She drifts through her daily life until she receives an anonymous text informing her that Amelia's death was not a suicide. Kate is forced out of her grief and makes it her mission to uncover everything she can about her daughter's death.
The reconstructing of the title refers to Kate's tireless and emotionally-draining work to solve the mysteries of Amelia's life based on information gleaned from e-mails, texts, a nasty, anonymous school blog, and Amelia's own writings. Kate discovers a daughter she doesn't recognize; perhaps one who didn't love her mother as much as Kate believed. The more Kate discovers about Amelia's life, the more she realizes how little she knew about her daughter.
The book alternates between time and POVs. We get Kate's POV following Amelia's death, as well as Amelia's POV in the period before her death. The two are on a crash course leading up to the moment on the roof. It's cleverly done, and we learn little bits about Amelia and what may have lead to her death before her mother does. It becomes clear early on that Amelia is the target of a pack of vicious bullies at her school. The question is whether Amelia's death was an accident, a suicide as a result of bullying, or a murder at the hands of her tormentors. I changed my mind about the cause with nearly every chapter. Even as the reconstruction of the last days of Amelia's life continues, McCreight holds some tantalizing details just out of reach. Things like: Was XXX involved? What does YYY's ZZZ have to do with it.
The moments leading up to Amelia's death were heart-breaking. I'd become fond of this strong, brave girl, and even as the days ticked down towards her death, I kept wishing that somehow she could make it out alive. I also wish that Reconstructing Amelia had been a straightforward look at bullying, (possible) suicide, and grief. It succeeded for about 95% of the book until twist after twist was piled on at the end. The worst was the far-fetched revelation of the identity of the author of the nasty blog. None of them added anything to the powerful themes that preceded them. The sensationalism, in fact, detracts from an otherwise moving story of a mother's fierce and unconditional love.